Are you a star gazer? Good for you. Now let’s switch it up. Become a stool gazer. What?! Yep, as crazy as it sounds, checking out your poo and paying attention to your bathroom habits is a fantastic way to get a snapshot of your digestive health. What’s going on in your gut impacts your whole body.
Building a stronger gut will:
- Reduce inflammation
- Improve nutrient absorption
- Strengthen your immune system
- Help improve your training/athletic performance
But before we start talking more about your bathroom habits, did you know, there’s more?
YOUR GUT INFLUENCES:
- Your mood (most of your serotonin is made in your gut)
- Your skin
- Your immune system (the bulk of your immune system is also found in your gut)
- Your metabolism
- Your weight
You can learn a whole lot more about what your gut influences by watching the documentary, The Gut: Our Second Brain, or reading up on the studies they have done with fecal transplants (yes, folks, crazy but true). In fact, it gets even weirder, now the latest is taking a pill of someone else’s fecal matter to improve one’s health.
So without further ado, let’s investigate what your poo is telling you.
If you are going one to two, even possibly 3 times a day, on a fairly regular schedule and you feel that everything is ‘’out” once you’ve gone that’s a good sign. Your body is doing its job and your digestion is healthy.
If you are in a recent pattern of going more than 3x a day, then something is off and you are not absorbing as many nutrients as you need to. If this has been going on for a long time it probably needs to be checked out, as you might have some type of issue, such as Chron’s, Celiac’s, an infection or IBS. If it’s only just recently you’ve noticed this occurring, then the first step in fixing this is adding in more fiber rich foods to your diet. Fiber is kind of a miracle worker. In this case because it slows down digestion, giving your body more time to absorb the nutrients that are passing through. The other thing you should do is eliminate alcohol and eat prebiotic and probiotic rich foods. Prebiotic rich foods are things like apples, sweet potatoes, carrots and asparagus (notice those are also all high in fiber). Prebiotics are nondigestible nutrients that get used as an energy source by the good bacteria that live in your intestines. Prebiotics give the probiotic bacteria a chance to do their job. Probiotic rich foods are foods like kombucha, kefir, kim-chi and sauerkraut.
Ok, but uh-oh, what if you have the opposite problem? Like you’re not going at all? Mayday, Mayday. Being backed up is just as detrimental to your health as going too much is. Just like Occam’s razor (the simplest solution tends to be the correct one) we can start with the simplest thing of all. Water. You absolutely need water in order for things to move through the digestive tract. The other crucially important thing? Fiber. Vegetables like broccoli, brussel sprouts and kale are all great for this, and as an added bonus, are nutrient dense. This is also a good place to add in a magnesium supplement, as many forms of magnesium tend to have a laxative effect.
So to recap, 1-2 movements a day means a healthy and strong digestive system, any more or less than that could be a good indication that something needs to change in your diet.
Frequency of stools, that’s kind of an obvious one, isn’t it? But what about color? Unless it’s some terrifying color (like reddish-pink from eating beets) you probably haven’t given the color much thought. Some colors for your consideration:
Brown-Good, totally normal
Greenish – good. Probably eating a lot green vegetables to give it this color
Yellowish– possibly a warning sign that your body is not digesting fats well. Oddly enough, sometimes the fix for this is to eat more fatty foods, such as avocados, seeds, salmon, sardines and eggs.
Clayish colored- your liver might not be producing enough bile, might be gallstones or something more serious, or it might be something more benign, like it needs more of the tools to help produce bile. Foods to help do this include beets, celery, daikon radish, garlic, horseradish, lemons, limes and watercress
Reddish– if it’s not from beets then this could be a serious issue. There could be possible internal bleeding so you will want to get this checked out.
Black-if you’re taking an iron supplement or you’ve eaten a food or medicine that can make this happen (blueberries, black licorice, pepto-bismol) then there’s generally no cause for alarm. Otherwise this could also be a sign of internal bleeding. Get it checked out.
We’ve talked about frequency, we’ve talked about color, so let’s take a look at what size and shape mean. Click on this link to see an image about what we’re talking about.
- First on the chart we see separate hard lumps, your poop kind of looks like rabbit pellets.This is pretty much a guarantee you are constipated and your liver needs help.The first step to fixing this is fiber and water, a magnesium supplement can also help and milk thistle is great for supporting the liver
- Second on the chart we see it’s lumpy and sausage shaped, which means mild constipation. Again to resolve this eat more fibrous foods, drink, water and take a magnesium supplement.
- and 4. on the chart are both a healthy shape, so if it’s solid and looks like a sausage with some cracks on the surface, you’re doing something right. If it’s smooth and soft like a sausage or snake, you’re still right on track.
- If it looks like number five on the chart, you guessed it, add more fibrous foods, as well as prebiotic and probiotic rich foods.
- If things are consistently looking like number 6, it could be due to an infection, but could also be from stress, as stress can accelerate transit time through the gut. This could also develop from conditions of the upper gut that affects digestion, such as liver or pancreatic disease.
- If this happens due to a circumstance that you are well aware of, like the flu, food poisoning, or GI distress during a race, then you know it’s temporary and just be sure to stay hydrated while dealing with it. If this is a common occurrence for you then the nutrients in your digestive tract are flying through and not getting enough time to actually be absorbed. You can end up nutrient deficient and with the accompanying problems that come with nutrient deficiencies. You could be dealing with a bigger problem like Chron’s, IBS or Celiac’s.
- Not listed on the chart, but still important, is if your stools look thin and shreddy. If this is the case, your colon is screaming for help. The answer by now, should be obvious; drink lots of water and eat fibrous foods.
Other characteristics of your stools and what they mean:
If your poop generally floats and doesn’t sink, that is a good sign your body is probably not emulsifying fats properly. Taking the digestive enzyme lipase (that is one of the enzymez that helps break down fat) for a week or two should help, and eating foods like avocados, that contain fat digesting enzymes, will help.
If your stools frequently leave skid marks, that is a sign of too much mucus. This goes back to you need more fiber and foods high in enzymes in your diet. Reduce alcohol and dairy temporarily and add in more vegetables, fruits and whole grains. If it continues then it should probably be checked out as it could be as sign of gallbladder trouble.
If your stools are more foul-smelling than normal that can also indicate malabsorption, in which the case the first step is to chew your food more thoroughly.
So now that we’ve taken an in-depth look at poo, I’m sure you all can see there are some really key factors to keeping your gut healthy, it always go back to the fundamentals, right? For a healthy and optimally functioning body, we just have to remember that fiber filled foods and water are the two fundamental parts of a healthy diet and a healthy body.